When you are a college or a university student, you must at one point be required to write a research proposal. How well you write the research proposal will greatly determine your success in your research project. However, most students are faced with the challenge of writing the research paper proposal format. While the format may vary a bit depending on your supervisor, there is a standard format that can be used by any student. The format may also vary depending on the referencing style one will use i.e. APA, MLA or Chicago. Below, is the research paper proposal format.

The title

Make it appealing and let it convey meaning to the reader, highlighting the dependent and dependent variables. Avoid using a boring title but rather make it catchy and interesting to make the reader curious to read everything you have in your proposal. Sometimes, scholars will judge the book by its cover!


The abstract is a summary of what is entailed in the research proposal. Avoid using too many words by limiting yourself to about 300 words. State your research problem, the methods used and also the findings. Also, include any instruments used in the method. You are not supposed to use abbreviations or insert tables to your abstract

Table of contents

The table of contents is prepared after you have completed writing your research proposal. It shows different headings and the page numbers within the body of your document.


This is the first chapter of your proposal. It is in the introduction that you explain the background of your research. It is broken down into segments as highlighted below.

  1. Background to the study
  2. Statement of the problem
  3. Purpose of the study
  4. The significance of the study
  5. Research objectives
  6. Research questions
  7. Limitations

Literature review

Make sure to show an extensive understanding of the topic of interest. Nowadays the most common source of the literature review is the internet where you can get loads of journals and other publications on your field of study. Libraries are also an important source. You are expected to use an interesting and engaging tone to avoid boring the readers.

Research methodology

State your population and study sample. Also, include the methods used in the collection of data such as interviews, questionnaires, etc. stating the challenges that you are likely to face in the collection of data is also necessary, together with a suggestion on how to overcome them.


This is the last section of a research proposal. Also called bibliography. All cited sources within the proposal should be referenced. It is an important way of avoiding plagiarism- copying someone’s work without their authority or citing it. For both APA and MLA, references should be arranged in an alphabetical order.

Conclusively, writing a research proposal is not as hard as we tend to imagine. With enough practice, it can become a simple exercise. Following this guide will help you ace that good grade you have been looking for!